KwaZulu-Natal young scientist used COVID-19 as inspiration

For most people the COVID-19 pandemic has caused stress and worry. But it made Suhaan Singh think – and won him a medal at the provincial KwaZulu-Natal Eskom Expo for Young Scientists and a visit to the Regeneron ISEF, the largest international science fair, held in the USA in May 2021.

Suhaan was a pupil at St. Dominic’s Academy in Newcastle when he entered his research project for the Eskom Expo in 2020 – he used a Lego kit to modify a robot to automate screening and sanitising for COVID-19.

This year’s provincial KwaZulu-Natal Eskom Expo awards ceremony will be held on 3 September at 17:00. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it will be held virtually and can be viewed here.

The pandemic did not stop last year’s entries from school learners for the country’s oldest and most prestigious science fair from producing excellent work. Indications are that the same will be true this year as 131 entries have been received, covering a wide spectrum of interests, ranging from engineering and energy to social sciences.

The majority of entries were from female learners. Young scientists can enter their investigations into one of thirteen categories.

The KZN provincial coordinator of Eskom Expo, Nalini Dookie, explains: “A love for science, engineering and mathematics can be cultivated. Children are naturally competitive and the Eskom Expo leverages this to inspire them.”

The Eskom Expo is part of a broader Eskom strategy of skills development, investing in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and innovation (STEMI). Eskom is committed to driving skills development in these fields, and relishes the opportunity of unearthing promising learners and putting them on a path to academic success and careers that contribute to South Africa’s developmental needs.

The KZN awards ceremony is one of nine such provincial events leading into the final Eskom Expo for Young Scientists International Science Fair (ISF) which will be held on 8 October. The ISF will include participants from 35 regions in South Africa as well as from several other African countries.

Despite the challenges experienced due to the pandemic and the consequent interruptions to regular schooling, Eskom has managed to continue supporting the STEMI programme through the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists. It had to do this through innovative ways, such as virtual science clubs, virtual workshops for learners and teachers, science day camps, and more.

Participation in the Eskom Expo science fair not only boosts skills development but for winners has direct benefits too – prestigious awards, bursaries, participation in international science fairs, self-development and career-pathing.

Certainly, Suhaan’s use of the pandemic as a starting point for a research project put him on an international stage.

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